The Epistle of Q — Chapter 124

The question today is simple: what can be gained from riding an old railbed?

Before you think life is all doom and gloom here in the Canadian desert, I should tell you of yesterday’s adventure. My neighbour Darrell is an RV guy with a tow-along Jeep. He is always off exploring somewhere and sometimes he goes Jeeping… I’m not even going to try to explain that and I am not about to buy another Jeep to join him. But yesterday he convinced me it was time to bike the Myra Canyon. As you know I often ride into the mountains near Penticton using the KVR Trail. It is so named in honour of the Kettle Valley Railway that was built over one hundred years ago to provide the southern interior of British Columbia another rail link to the west coast. Part of it is now covered by the Coquehalla Highway (much like I-40 covers old Route 66 in the USA – only remnants remain to show the way the railway went). No matter, the KVR was quite an engineering feat and a couple of summers ago my three American grandsons biked with me to the Little Tunnel which is a fair trek out of the city up into the mountains (they have pictures to prove it, including the ice cream cones to celebrate on the way home). And a few years ago on Meadow Lark Festival weekend I biked down from Chute Lake to Penticton on the KVR.

This is all backstory however to yesterday’s excursion. To get from Rock Creek to Penticton requires getting over a somewhat substantial range of small mountains. Since the route along the border itself was not suitable (just drive Highway #3 from Osoyoos up over Anarchist Mountain and you will know immediately what I mean), the Chief Engineer McCullough decided to go up the Rock Creek Valley and then swing around between Okanagan Mountain and among others including Campbell Mountain and down into Penticton. To do this however required getting past the Myra Canyon which is no small cleft in the mountains. If you want to know more about the geology and the history itself you can check it out on the web (search Myra Canyon Trestles/Tunnels).

There are two [2] tunnels (plus two more enormous rock cuts that started out to be tunnels until the rock proved too unstable and so they cut out all the rock) plus eighteen [18] trestles over a total of twelve [12] kilometres. The longest trestle is two hundred twenty [220] metres and there are two short ones of twenty-seven [27] metres back-to-back. The tunnels are 114 & 84 metres. I started at the west end which is at the Ruth Station (part of the route getting to that starting point is climbing a forestry/logging road – I’m glad I have a 4X4 as the road is akin to the old washboard my grandma had about the time they were building this railroad!!). The grade at times reaches two percent [2%] but often it seems relatively flat. My mountain bike made it all the way to the Myra Station in 3-7 (high gear: one step less than full eighth speed) – the way back was busier and so was a bit slower. Lots of families on bikes and some couples were even walking the route (probably makes picture taking easier).

The summit of the trail here is 1,274 metres which is actually the highest point on the entire KVR. As well there remains two of the original telegraph poles and the foundations of the two stations and one water tower. If you have a sharp eye you can also see one of the old rock ovens. The views are incredible – you can see all the way down to Kelowna in several spots. To me though the most amazing vistas were when you look across the chasm (KLO Creek is at the bottom) and see where you have come from and see some of the trestles in the distance that you had biked over. It is almost surreal. And it made me realize again how valuable these old railway beds are (note: PEI can be transversed length-wise on its old railbed). They are maintained now by volunteer groups and they provide a great introduction to some of the varied grandeur that can be found throughout the land.

I’m grateful to my neighbour for getting me up to Myra Canyon. Yes the drive from Penticton was ninety [90] minutes each way; but the couple of hours on the trail made it all worthwhile. If you come to visit sometime, maybe I can take you. I have a couple of extra bikes and a bike rack for my SUV… think about it – a great way to experience another amazing part of the Okanagan Valley.

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